Flowers for Moth Gardens

If you’ve dismissed moths in the past as the drab brown insects fluttering around your porch light, you must give this group of garden fliers a second chance. While the butterfly garden has become a popular subculture of flower garden enthusiasts, there are reasons you should consider planting a moth garden.

Of the thousands of moth species in North America, many are just as showy as butterflies. Although some conspicuous moths, like the giant green Luna moth, don’t feed on nectar, others, like the hummingbird moths, seem almost tame as they flit from one flower to another right under your nose. Plant one or more of these moth favorites in your garden, and you may attract butterflies or hummingbirds as well.

  • 01 of 08

    Butterfly Bush

    Purple Butterfly Bush
    Hans Lang/Image Broker/Getty Images

    Yes, the butterfly bush is named for attracting butterflies, but the anatomy of the flowers is just right for moths, too. Moths favor white flowers, so plant the super-hardy ‘White Profusion’ variety of this summer flower shrub, and watch many species of nectar lovers congregate for the feast.

  • 02 of 08

    Cleome

    Cleome Spider Flower
    Faye Mozingo

    The spider flower isn’t one of the most popular annual bedding plants, but that’s only because they look rather "blah" in their nursery packs in their immature form. Once in the garden, these plants quickly soar up to six feet tall, sporting eight-inch blossom clusters until frost.

  • 03 of 08

    Evening Primrose

    Evening Primrose
    Joost J. Bakker

    Moths adore pale-hued flowers on evening blooming plants, and the evening primrose gives you both on a tough as nails biennial for your drought-tolerant garden. This native wildflower can self-seed to a fault, so some deadheading is necessary to keep it in bounds. In addition to nectaring sphinx moths with the flowers, you may feed moth caterpillars like a pearly wood nymph with this plant’s foliage.

  • 04 of 08

    Flowering Tobacco

    Nicotiana Flowering Tobacco
    Alexandre Vialle

    Nicotiana plants are valuable annuals for providing height to a flower border, and some varieties are extremely fragrant, especially in the evening. The plants thrive in hot humid areas, and they are passed over by most deer and rabbits. Plant a moth-friendly white variety like ‘Perfume White’ or ‘Only the Lonely.’

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  • 05 of 08

    Honeysuckle

    Honeysuckle Vine in Bloom
    John Williams

    Keeping your garden too tidy denies moths places to hide from predators and a place to seek shelter from the elements. Therefore, growing plants like the native honeysuckle vine benefits moths in two ways: by providing a nectar source, and by giving them a natural tangle of stems and leaves in which to hide. Be sure to choose native honeysuckle species over non-native Asian species, which are invasive.

  • 06 of 08

    Impatiens

    Impatiens With Sphinx Moth
    Patrick Emerson

    Plant any of the single white impatiens to light up your shade garden and attract moths. African hybrids, in their pale peach and yellow tones, are also attractive to moths. Cluster a group of pots filled with impatiens in the shade of host trees like hickory, maple, or oaks, and you will provide food for both the caterpillars and adults.

  • 07 of 08

    Moonflower

    Nocturnal Moon Flower Bloom
    Scott Zona

    Gardeners who spend the day away from home appreciate the qualities of a moon garden, which reveals its beauty after the dinner hour. The moonflower vine requires hot weather to grow and bloom, and will struggle or succumb to pests in cool summer areas. The plants need something to twine around and may climb up to 10 feet, so provide a large trellis or other sturdy support.

  • 08 of 08

    Petunia

    White Petunia with Moth Pollinator
    Patty O'Hearn Kickham

    When choosing petunias for your moth garden, you should look for the single varieties instead of the new ruffled hybrids. Double flowers have a far lower nectar content than the single flowering types. If you’ve dealt with the budworm caterpillar, you might wonder if the petunia is also an important host plant for moths. This caterpillar is considered a pest, so don’t feel guilty about treating affected plants with the organically friendly Dipel or Thuricide.